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26th Nov weekly Covid-19 data summary

Team members James Beecher and Claire Biggs summarise data on Covid-19

We post regular updates on news around vaccination eligibility/rollout, government policy and more in our Facebook group, where you can also ask any questions you have about any aspect of the pandemic and response. Here are three key signposts to further information

Gloucestershire – positive tests, hospital admissions, people in hospital

First, some key numbers. In the most recent data

  • 3,031 people living in Gloucestershire tested positive for the first time in the week to the 23rd November. This is a bit lower than the week to 16th November (3,188), but too early to see a falling trend. Nonetheless, good that case numbers aren’t rising dramatically given they are still very high (at the peak in January 2021, 2,424 people tested positive for the first time (week to 4th January). The age profile of people testing positive is substantially different now (see below)
  • 51 people were admitted to Gloucester/Cheltenham hospital with Covid-19, or diagnosed in the hospital – down from 57 in the previous week, and essentially half the number of the recent peak of 100 people admitted/diagnosed in the week to 31st October. This is now looking like a clear trend (which could be a function of wider vaccination and boosters for those most at risk), and is back to the region of weekly numbers seen from July – early October (with fluctuations between 40-60 a week).
  • There were 48 people in Gloucester/Cheltenham hospital with Covid-19 as of 23rd November – again a drop from last week’s figure (52, and also looking like a downward trend from the recent peak of 74 patients with Covid-19 in these hospitals on 8th November). Sadly, some of the reduction is likely due to people who were in hospital dying, and the number in critical care is also at a high since April – 8 patients on the 21st November. We wish everyone in hospital well, and send our best wishes to their loved ones during anxious times.
  • Eight more people died with Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificate in the most recent week we have data for – to 12th November. This is a the same number as last week. Since August a total of 74 people who had lived in Gloucestershire have died with Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificate, of a total 1,266 people who have died associated with the county. We send our best wishes to everyone in hospital and their loved ones, and our condolences to those who have lost loved ones.

Looking at tests – the first chart below shows that, following the impact of the Immensa false negatives, positive test rates in Stroud district and Gloucestershire have dropped back to levels similar to those for the whole of the UK (around 430 per 100,000 or one in every 230 people testing positive for the first time in the past week). Stroud has a rate of 424 per 100,000, England is at 428 per 100,000, and Gloucestershire as a whole has a rate of 434 per 100,000. The differences are small enough that they likely don’t mean a lot – each is now rising, though relatively slowly.

Bear in mind these are the number of people testing positive and we know not everyone gets tested (the ONS estimate that around 1 in 65 people” in England would have tested positive in the week to 20th November – same as last week, and now similar across the South West – about 1 in 63 – again, the same as last week).

Source: Claire Biggs and James Beecher using using gov.uk dashboard data

It’s essential to stress that the age profile of cases is very different now to previously – instead of a roughly even split, cases are now predominantly among those aged under 60 (less likely to be vaccinated). In the week to 21st November, there were 2,985 cases among under 60s, more than ten times the number in over 60s – 283. Indeed, the trends are going in opposite directions (likely an effect of people over 40, and particularly those over 60, receiving boosters). The rates per population in each group were 157 cases per 100,000 people aged 60+ in Gloucestershire, and 648 per 100,000 people aged under 60 (in other words, more than 3 times the rate).

Source: gov.uk dashboard for Gloucestershire

Looking at hospital admissions, numbers in hospitals, and numbers of weekly deaths where Covid-19 is mentioned on someone’s death certificate. The chart below shows how deaths are much lower, and admissions and numbers in hospital reached levels around half the rates of peaks in previous waves. However, both weekly admission numbers and numbers of people in hospital with Covid-19 now appear to be falling, which is a good sign. With fewer admissions, we can expect the numbers in hospital to continue falling. Hopefully, we have seen the highest peak that will be reached in this ‘wave’ – and that it has been lower is a testament to vaccination.

It is worth mentioning, however, that local Intensive Care workers say there are more people in intensive care with Covid-19 than at this time last year – largely made up of people, of different ages, who have not been vaccinated. See this 3 minute piece from a yesterday’s BBC Points West, and the chart below.

The chart below shows there were 8 Covid patients in Critical Care beds on 20th and 21st, 6th-9th and the 3rd November. Together with non-Covid patients in Critical Care, this has pushed the number of unoccupied critical care beds to it’s lowest numbed since may – just 3 spare beds on 13th and 11th November. Bear in mind that a bed requires staff, and that critical care staff are now dealing with their third major wave of Covid patients – that require particularly high levels of care – in under two years.

Source: NHS England

The chart below puts the above chart in the context of the numbers of people testing positive. It shows how high the numbers of people testing positive are compared to the January 2021 wave, but also demonstrates how population-wide vaccination has dramatically weakened the link between the numbers of people who test positive, and the numbers being admitted to hospital/in hospital dying. We still want to keep hospital numbers low and prevent people dying, but it is worth emphasising that people testing positive are now – on average – more likely to be having mild infections (whether because they are fully vaccinated before infection or because they are unvaccined but at lower risk because younger etc). It’s worth emphasising that adults of all ages are still being admitted to hospital and, as above, ICU, and that even “mild” infections that do not require hospital admission may still not be enjoyable and could lead to prolonged symptoms / loss of quality of life (“long covid”), so we still want to do what we can to prevent the spread of infections.

Comparing the interactive map of cases for our local area, from last week and this week, also shows that the numbers of positive tests are decreasing in Stroud Town (down 7% in the week to 21st November, on top of drops of 25% last week on the previous week, and 23% on the week before that). Similar patterns are occuring in other parts of the district/county – but there are fluctuations. Some areas around Cheltenham and Gloucester have rates of over 800 per 100,000 people, and rates have risen in Berkeley, Nailsworth and Malmesbury which had previously dropped down to lower rates (lighter blue, 100-199 per 100,000). Most of the areas withing the district and much of the county has rates in the region of 400-799 per 100,000.

Source: gov.uk interactive map

Ian Campbell’s excellent interactive Covid data site shows Torridge in Devon continues to have the highest rates in the South West by some distance, with North Devon also having higher rates. Cheltenham, Tewkesbury and Gloucester also have rates in top half of local authority areas in the South West, while Cotswold district is in the bottom half, and the Forest of Dean and Stroud district have rates 4th and 3rd lowest in the South West (behind Swindon and Somerset West and Taunton).

You can view daily numbers for Gloucestershire, or districts within it, on the government’s dashboard, and there is more information below. You can also enter your postcode into the government’s dashboard to get more data on your local area. However, please take into account that the reported data in terms rates per population and of increase are a mess for the period 2nd September to 25th October because of the Immensa false negative scandal.

National context

Very briefly this week: You can see a summary of the trends on the government dashboard at this link.

  • Most encouragingly, the numbers of people dying within 28 days of a positive test has fallen by 15.5%, now back below 1,000 people a week: 877 people died within 28 days of a positive test in the week to the 26th November (compared to 1,038 in the week to 19th November). By this measure it seems daily numbers peaked on the 31st October. Numbers in this region are being confirmed in the more robust but delayed measure which counts deaths where Covid-19 is mentioned on a death certificate: across the UK 1,197 people died with Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificate in the week to the 12th November (hopefully the next two weeks will confirm the falling trend). Obviously even 877 people dying in a week is a considerable number, and we should not minimise the impacts of this on loved ones.
  • It’s also encouraging that the number of patients admitted to hospital/diagnosed in hospital is still falling – down another 10.5% on the previous week, to 5,555 in the 7 days to 22nd November, compared to 6,183 in the last 7 days. Again, this is still a considerable number, but one that may have peaked on the 27th October.
  • The number of Covid-19 patients in hospital is also falling: 7,633 on the 25th November, compared to a recent peak of 9,661 on the 1st November. These numbers are still well below the spring 2020 peak of 21,687, and the January 2021 peak of 39,254, but nonetheless considerable numbers for an NHS that have been under considerable additional pressure due to the pandemic for the past 18 months, and is heading into what are usually the worst months of ‘normal’ years.
  • … and numbers of people testing positive for the first time have risen: 309,353 in the 7 days to 26th November is 10% increase on the previous week (a slightly lower rate of increase than last week). It’s too soon to know either if this will feed into more hospital admissions/deaths – although it is starting to look like it may not. The slowing rate of increase is an indication the rise may not be sustained for long, but we’d obviously rather the trend was in the opposite direction aready.

The ONS estimate that “In England, the trend in the percentage of people testing positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) was uncertain in the week ending 20 November 2021; we estimate that 862,300 people in England had COVID-19 (95% credible interval: 813,800 to 913,300), equating to around 1 in 65 people” (essentially the same as last week)

Across the UK as the whole, KCL/ZOE app team independently estimate around 1million people had an active infection on the 26th November, based on symptom reporting and reporting of test results by up to 4.7 million app users. This is up slightly from 978,000 last week, but down considerably from 1.1 million on the 12th November. Again, there’s not a clear trend.

In terms of vaccination uptake across England:

  • 29% of people are estimated to have had a booster (the estimate is only because the total number of people isn’t certain – it will be about 29%). We don’t have a number for Stroud district/Gloucestershire yet but it is likely similar based on data we have for uptake of 1 or 2 doses
  • 80.4% have had at least two doses (82% in Stroud district)
  • 88.4% have had at least one dose (87.8% in Stroud district)

The impact of boosters can be seen in real-world data collated by John Burn-Murdoch from the Financial Times, in the chart below which shows case rates falling dramatically in the 80+ and 60-79 year old groups in November, as the booster rollout moved past 50% of the population in that age group – unlike in October when cases in the age groups had been rising.

International

The international situation is concerning, with the identification of a new “Variant of Concern”, and case rise rising dramatically in Europe. On the new “Omicron” variant – watch the WHO video below. After that, some helpful charts from data journalist John Burn Murdoch at the Financial Times on the variant, and the situation across Europe.

Two tweets from John Burn Murdoch on B.1.1.529 now known as Omicron, from his longer thread (which you can access by clicking through):

https://twitter.com/jburnmurdoch/status/1463956686075580421

Numbers are really rising. Tuesday 868, Weds 1,275, and since I posted the first tweet Thursday’s figure has come out: 2,465. Which means the wave chart now looks like this”

For an excellent summary of what is happening across Europe at the moment, see another thread from John Burn-Murdoch, covering how: “France, Italy & Spain all on course to pass UK for cases. Germany now above UK for daily deaths and Netherlands set to follow”. Why? “UK’s July reopening led to much more of its population being infected than elsewhere in western Europe. Between vax and infection-acquired immunity, UK has more protection, Europe has more susceptible people.” “of course, that infection-acquired immunity comes at a grim cost. The UK has recorded more than 15,000 new Covid deaths since reopening no July 19. That’s more over that period than any European country except Romania in absolute terms, and now around 10th highest per-capita”

https://twitter.com/jburnmurdoch/status/1463450302212886530

“The big question is how that number will compare once winter is done? In July UK’s running toll was highest in Europe. Several eastern European countries have since overtaken, and plotting the same on a log scale shows that others further west are heading the same way”

Notes

The core advice remains: If you have symptoms (or if you are asked to by contact tracers), self-isolate until you have a negative test – or for 10 days since your symptoms appeared if you test positive or are asked to by Test and Trace. If you are struggling with self-isolating, please get in touch with us or with one of the local support groups, or call 0808 196 3646 between 8am and 8pm, 7 days a week to self-refer or visit NHS Volunteer Responders. You may be able to receive financial support to self-isolate from Stroud District Council.

Book a test via this link. You can now do this whether or not you have symptoms – it’s really important you isolate and get tested if you have symptoms (fever, new cough, loss of smell/taste). The link will tell you which type of test to book if you have symptoms or not. There is a wider list of symptoms associated with the virus to look out for from the ZOE symptom study.

Twice weekly rapid tests are available to everyone in England without symptoms. If you have symptoms, there is a permanent unit at Hempsted Meadow in Gloucester, and a walk-in unit in Stratford Park. See this link for details of testing locations in Gloucestershire.

Whether or not you have symptoms, please still follow the public health advice to meet outside when possible, keep indoor spaces well ventilated with fresh air, wear masks when appropriate (they will help prevent spread of the virus if you have it but don’t have symptoms yet, or are asymptomatic – meaning you have the virus but without ever getting any symptoms), keep distance from people, and wash your hands regularly.

If there is a piece of guidance you have a question about, again – please ask in our Facebook group.

These updates are designed to improve understanding of the pandemic and its impacts, with the hope this can help us to reduce those impacts locally. We appreciate they do not involve space to properly convey the full impact of the virus nor the restrictions that are making life difficult for many people. We’re also volunteers with no public health expertise – collating and signposting to other sources for guidance.

Please remember we have a list of resources to support your emotional and mental health during this time on our website (and welcome further recommendations). The following numbers may be useful:

  • Samaritans: 116 123
  • Domestic Violence Hotline: 0808 2000 247
  • Mind: 0300 123 3393
  • Age UK: 0800 169 6565
  • Childline: 0800 1111.

Your suggestions for inclusion of data in these summaries are welcome. Please submit posts to our Facebook group.